Look, I’m not going to beat around the bush here. “The Chosen”, a show that retells the Gospels as a multi-season long TV show, is not just a great faith-based show. This is easily one of my favorite shows ever. It’s not just faithful, not just made with love and care, not just moving and heartfelt, it is honest to God one of the most entertaining things I’ve watched in years.
I am trying and failing to figure out how to get across “If you like visual media and are even remotely interested in the premise, watch this show” without sounding like I’m overselling it, and I can’t do it. But this is one of the rare shows that really and truly works on every single level I can think of.
It’s not perfect in the sense that nothing of this scale and ambition is perfect. There are things I’d do differently. At the same time, I completely understand every decision the showrunners make.
If you’re a Catholic, one of the biggest barriers will definitely be the portrayal of Mary; the show is written by an evangelical. At the same time, I was impressed at how respectfully she was portrayed. True, she was not shown to be a sinless perpetual virgin (though it’s unclear to me if Jesus is meant to have actual brothers; the few flashback scenes with Joseph imply he has none). But she is important to the narrative and the life of Jesus and is portrayed as a loving and faithful woman with in some ways a deeper understanding of what it means to love Christ than the Apostles. This I can respect. Know what you’re getting into; the showrunners don’t agree with Catholics about Mary, but the portrayal is far from insulting.
There are times in the show when I’m blown away at the Biblical accuracy, sometimes on subjects people often get wrong. For example, the show correctly identifies how radical Jesus calling himself Son of Man actually is, when the Pharisees point out that this is in fact a divine title from the Book of Daniel. Almost nobody remembers this, but there it is, right in show. They just say it. In the last couple of episodes we meet the woman with a hemorrhage who is healed when she touches Jesus’s cloak, and the show does a spectacular job of illustrating how horrifying her life must be: She is not only constantly bleeding and weak, she is constantly unclean. She can’t live among Jewish society.
The acting is spectacularly good. Particularly standout, in my opinion, are Simon Peter and Matthew. The show makes the decision to portray Matthew as autistic, and it works. More than that, it makes a character who by all rights is doing something despicable and pulls you immediately onto his side as you follow his constant difficulties in relating to and understanding others. Yet at the same time it never excuses Matthew’s actions. Matthew hardly even tries, and whenever he does he is immediately – and correctly – shot down for it.
I consider the idea that the show is actually crypto-Mormon to be ludicrous and vaguely insulting. I don’t need to read an argument about why it’s secretly Mormon. I’m an educated Catholic who has watched the show myself. If it’s Mormon it is only in the ways Mormonism parallels with Christianity.
The miracle scenes are beautiful and heartfelt, of course, but where the show really shines is getting into Christ and the Apostles as people. Some of the best scenes of the show are, essentially, fanfiction: Mary rushing over to help Jesus, interrupting an argument among the Apostles, Matthew meeting with his estranged family and reconciling with them after his status as a tax collector broke their relationship, John the Baptist discussing things with Andrew from the inside of a jail cell. The scenes do more than work: They’re great. The show would be lesser without them.
Simon portrays all of the complexities of the man in the Gospel. He is at once a born leader and a coward, on fire for God and a hothead with a hot temper, a loving husband and a distant one. The actor grasps the contradictions effortlessly, and Simon comes across above all else as REAL. The show starts off with a long non-biblical story involving Simon having issues fishing and paying his taxes that had me wondering what the point was, but the whole thing climaxes in spectacular fashion in what is still one of the most moving scenes in the show so far. Season 3 has, if anything, been even better 5 episodes in than seasons 1 and 2.
Look, if you are at all interested in good television, or something faith-based with clever writing and excellent production values, this is the show for you. I really, really can’t recommend it enough. It is completely free here.
2 thoughts on “You REALLY should watch “The Chosen””
Wait, does the show like actually portray Mary as being a sinner or sinning, or does it just NOT portray Mary as uniquely sinless, so the way she’s portrayed is actually agnostic on whether or not she was sinless?
If the show just doesn’t strongly portray her one way or the other, that’s even less problematic for Catholics then.
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It doesn’t portray her as sinning as far as I can recall, but then I can’t really recall that girl that Thomas is into ever sinning either, for that matter. She’s not really in the show that much.